I grew up in the 80s as a turnkey kid, which means I first learned to cook using handy mixes made by Knorr, Rice-a-Roni and Hamburger Helper. While this introduction to cooking didn’t teach me any real meal prep skills (that would come later with a Bon Appétit subscription), it did instill in me an appreciation for meals where pasta could be cooked in a saucepan, without draining required.
Later I realized that I didn’t need the packages. It’s really quite simple to simmer pasta directly in the sauce – it’s just a matter of getting the dry pasta to liquid ratio right. Once you figure that out, you can tinker with adding protein (seared rainbow trout, soft and moist in this case) and finish the dish with whatever cheese, fresh herbs, and flavorings you see fit. The results are a one-pot meal that could easily fetch $16 or more at a restaurant, but costs about a third of that price when made at home.
Rainbow trout is a subspecies of trout native to Pacific and Alaskan waters. They are anadromous, meaning they spawn in freshwater and then migrate to the ocean where they grow larger than freshwater trout. Like salmon, they then return to fresh water to mate.
Their flesh is light orange, like salmon, but with a milder flavor and juicy texture that even fish haters love. The fillets tend to be thinner than farmed fatty Atlantic salmon, so they cook quickly and stay tender, even if they’re a little overcooked.
ONE PAN STEEL TROUT AND LEMON GARLIC ANGEL HAIR PASTA
1 large shallot
3 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 medium lemons, divided
8 sprigs of fresh parsley
4 skin-on rainbow trout or salmon fillets (about 5 ounces)
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
1 cup whole or 2% milk
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
8 ounces dried angel hair
1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup finely grated)
Cut 1 large shallot (about 1/2 cup). Finely chop 3 cloves of garlic. Cut 1/2 medium lemon into 4 wedges and set aside to serve.
Prepare the following, adding each to the same small bowl as you go: Finely grate the zest of the remaining 1 medium lemon until you have 2 tsp. Squeeze the lemon until you get 3 tbsp. Pluck the leaves from 8 sprigs of fresh parsley and coarsely chop (about 1/4 cup).
Pat 4 trout or salmon fillets (about 5 ounces) dry with paper towel. Season with 3/4 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large straight-sided skillet or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until simmering. Working in batches if necessary, add the fish in a single layer, skin side up. Sear without disturbing for 3 minutes. Gently slide a thin spatula under the fish to loosen it, then turn the fish. Cook the other side until the fish is just cooked through, about 3 minutes.
Transfer fish to a plate, skin side up, and cover lightly with foil to keep warm. Wipe the fish oil from the pan with a paper towel.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add 2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth, 1 cup milk, remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 pinch red pepper flakes. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Break 8 ounces of angel hair pasta in half with your hands and add to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered, stirring and pressing the pasta with a spatula to submerge it in the liquid occasionally, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (add more broth if necessary), 7 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, finely grate 1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese if needed (about 1/4 cup).
Remove the pan from the fire. Add parsley and lemon mixture and toss with tongs to combine. Sprinkle with parmesan and mix. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed.
Remove the skin from the fish and discard it. Divide the pasta among four bowls or pasta plates and top with the fish, browned side up. Serve with lemon wedges.